PBA breakthrough for Rain or ShineBy Musong R. Castillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Rain or Shine is still dreaming, but of bigger things this time.
With a gutsy Game 7 performance against one of the most talented, most experienced teams in the PBA, the Elasto Painters last night enshrined themselves as champions in their first crack at the title after a six-year wait.
The Painters displayed utmost confidence and resolve before close to 22,000 fans at Smart Araneta Coliseum, pounding out an 83-76 decision of the B-Meg Llamados in the rubber match for the Governors Cup crown.
Despite blowing leads of as many as 13 points in the first half, the Painters never lost their composure against the Llamados, who rallied from a 1-3 deficit to tie the best-of-seven series at 3-3 only to sputter in the closing minutes.
Compounding their woes, the Llamados lost their crack import Marcus Blakely with still 8:30 remaining, giving the Painters enough moving room to pull away for good at 82-74 with barely 90 seconds left.
Rain or Shine became the first team in league history to win a championship in a Game 7 in its first try, in the process becoming just the fourth franchise to nail a title in its maiden Finals appearance.
Coach Yeng Guiao also snapped a personal championship drought that spanned the same length of time as when Rain or Shine entered the league, and he put a lot on the line in this one after he boldly declared the Painters would still win after losing his crack rookie guard for good due to injury in Game 2.
“I was just trying to express my belief in the team, psyche them up and make them play harder, which they did today,” Guiao said. “I knew that after making (the declaration in Game 2), I could have been a genius or a total fool.”
Guiao won a sixth title in his career and joined the ranks of Baby Dalupan, Tommy Manotoc and Chot Reyes as the only coaches who nailed championships with three different teams.
Jamelle Cornley finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds, Jeff Chan added 16 and Gabe Norwood chipped in with 15 points and seven boards for the Painters.
“Thank you for giving this team an identity,” co-owner Raymund Yu told Guiao during the postgame interview. “Now, our dream is to win more championships.”
Chan, after finishing the series with averages of almost 12 points, three rebounds in 32 minutes of action, was unanimously chosen as the Cinnabon-PBA Press Corps’ Finals Most Valuable Player that went with the Most Improved Player award he won before Game 4.
Rain or Shine, after blowing several 13-point leads, hung tough the rest of the first half to take a 50-48 lead into the halftime break.
The Elasto Painters scored 35 points in the first period—the most by any team in any period in the series—to take a 13-point spread into the second after Chan and Cornley combined for 17 points.
B-Meg was able to immediately breathe down the necks of the Painters by holding Rain or Shine to just eight points in the first seven minutes of the second period.
Tight first half
The Llamados, the reigning Commissioner’s Cup champions, actually pulled level at 48 with just over two minutes left in the half after a Blakely layup that came with a foul from Chan.
But the B-Meg import muffed the bonus charity, and after a series of misses from both squads, Jervy Cruz shoved the Painters ahead again with a followup of a Cornley miss at the buzzer.
Cornley finished with 11 points in the first half, just three shy of his entire Game 6 output that ended horribly for them. Chan, crowned the Most Improved Player of the season just before Game 4, had 14 in the first two periods alone.
The next season opens on Sept. 30 with the Philippine Cup where Talk ‘N Text, which will be handled by the multi-titled Norman Black, is the defending champion.
Meanwhile, national coach Chot Reyes will unveil a new Fil-American recruit in 6-foot-5 point guard Matt Ganuela Rosser for the Jones Cup in Taipei from Aug. 18 to 26.
In another development, 71 players beat the deadline for rookie aspirants Friday with the PBA now going through the qualifications the pro hopefuls before coming up with the final number by Aug. 16.
RAIN OR SHINE 83—Cornley 20, Chan 16, Norwood 15, Ibanes 8, Cruz 7, Belga 7, Arana 5, Tang 4, Buenafe 1, Jaime 0, Quinahan 0.
B-MEG 76—Yap 23, Blakely 15, Simon 11, Urbiztondo 8, De Ocampo 8, Barroca 5, Reavis 4, Pingris 2, Villanueva 0.
Quarters: 35-22, 50-48, 68-64, 83-76